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The total hill tribe population is about 500,000, with the Karen being the largest group (about 350,000).
The name "Thailand" is associated with the dominant ethnic group, Thai. It was an absolute monarchy until 1932, when it became a constitutional monarchy.
In 1939 the country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand.
The Pattani Malay, Malay, and Kedah Malay populations live in an area associated with the kingdom of Patani, which fell under Thai control in 1786.
The nineteen Tibeto-Burman-speaking groups include nine groups that speak Karen languages.
In the south, there are small groups of so-called sea gypsies and aboriginal Malays (about 6,000 people).
In the isolated inland areas of the south, there are about 1,000 forest-dwelling peoples referred to as Orang Asli in Malay. Thai is a Daic language in the southwestern Tai group.Other major ethnic groups include Chinese (about 12 percent of the population), Malay-speaking Muslims (about 3 percent), and Khmer (about 2 percent).The majority of the Chinese live in central Thailand, especially in urban areas.The southern region is a narrow isthmus with hills running down the center.The Thai (also known as the Central Tai) live mainly in the central region, with closely related groups of Tai-speaking peoples occupying most of the remainder of the nation.The military governments after World War II promoted rapid economic development and attempted to assimilate ethnic minorities.